Vaughan Anoa’i is committed to bringing greater diversity to volleyball Credit: Kim Smith photo

A few months ago, high school senior Vaughan Anoa’i launched a very personal campaign toward diversifying club volleyball. Through her charity, Vaughan’s Block Back, she is donating $25 for every block she makes over the final seasons of her club career with Sunshine Volleyball Club. To make this possible, she saved her allowance and birthday and holiday monies to support her #BlockBack pledge.

Club volleyball is essential for players who aspire to play in college. It is where the best players play together and against each other. Anoa’i, who has African American and Samoan ancestry, has played volleyball since she was 12. While playing on a club team, she realized this opportunity is not available to everyone.

“When I became immersed in the college recruiting process, I realized in order to play at the collegiate level, you need to play club volleyball,” said Anoa’i, a middle blocker. “That’s when I made the conscious effort and decision to make this much more inclusive for all players, regardless of their socio-economic status or background. That’s what motivated and drove me to start this.”

Now in her senior year at the Archer School for Girls, she has committed to playing her college volleyball at Georgetown University. It’s an academic institution she admires, and she prefers to attend a smaller university. Although already an accomplished journalist, Anoa’i has the long-term goal of being a lawyer, and Georgetown has an excellent law school.

“For the talent that is out there now for club volleyball, I think that’s only a small percentage of the great talent available,” Anoa’i said. “So many people have athletic capability and talent; however, if they’re not exposed to the proper resources and access to playing on a club team and getting exposure from the travel tournaments we attend, then they typically will not have the opportunity to play in college.”

Anoa’i recently announced that the $6,000 she’s raised so far will be divided among three clubs: Starlings Volleyball USA, Sunshine Volleyball Club and Long Beach Mizuno Volleyball Club. She hopes that #BlockBack will inspire others to step up and also spark the interest of young people from diverse backgrounds to take up volleyball or another sport.

“This isn’t something that has to be limited to volleyball,” she said. “This can take form in a multitude of sports. I really want to emphasize the importance of allowing everyone to look inside of themselves and enact change because we all have the power and capability to do so.”

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